3 Essential Tips for Yoga Teachers
The practice of Yoga has become widely popular across the world and as a result more and more students are becoming teachers. The demand for quality teachers is growing as students are falling in love with the path and continuously looking for more ways to learn. How does one become a great teacher, when they themselves are just a student of the practice? Questions like these are appropriate but only if they serve to evolve your teaching and help you grow. Feeling a lack of confidence is normal, and a natural part of the process when transitioning from student to teacher, and it may take years to build confidence so don't let it throw you off the path. Any good teacher/student has the desire to grow into their fullest potential and if you are self aware its easy to see that you are not where you want to be yet. You can further develop your ability to see yourself by going deeper and seeing both your potential and the beauty of who you already are. Here are my 3 most essential tips to help you grow into your potential as a teacher, and settle into a place of humble confidence.
1. Be the most advanced student.
Many yogis have shunned the word “advanced” out of fear that it somehow creates a divide amongst students, which goes against the whole idea that Yoga means Union. For me unity is not something we are striving for but something that already exists and our work as yogis is to become clear enough that we feel that unity within everything we do. I believe the real issue is that people identify and define themselves by their proficiency at what they do, and that is a recipe for separation. But you can recognize your level of proficiency at something without mistakenly believing that it has any bearing on who you truly are. Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced are simply ways to communicate our proficiency within any given subject, task, game, activity etc. I can confidently say that Michael Jordan is far more advanced than I when it comes to playing the game of Basketball and yet at the core of our being he and I (and you) are still a part of the one energy that runs through all things. So can you be advanced at Yoga? Here is how I define an advanced student of modern day yoga: One who is open minded and seeking to learn and grow from all of life’s experiences regardless of how challenging they might be. The advanced practitioner observes what stands in their way from experiencing Freedom in their mind and body, and take actions to break through those barriers. The advanced student has the capacity to hold their attention on what they are doing at any given moment. What does an advanced student mean to you? After reading through the rest of this blog take time to contemplate, and write down what you feel it means to be advanced. Working with my definition, being the most advanced student means showing up to every yoga class, or life situation with full presence, focus and humility. Be ready to learn from everyone that you interact with, and from every situation regardless of how joyous or challenging it may be. Practicing anything in this way will allow you the highest level of proficiency possible for you. When you are willing to observe what holds you back you will have the opportunity to take actions to break through the obstacles. Observe what challenges you, and take the necessary actions that will turn your weakness’ into strengths. In terms of teaching as yourself:
•what aspects of leading a group of students through the practices challenge you?
•What are your Strengths?
•What can you do to make your challenges or weakness’ into strengths?
Learn from everyone and everything, and seek out teachers, friends, situations, trainings to help you develop the skills that will allow you to access your fullest power as a teacher.
2. Be completely authentic.
This may sound obvious, but most teachers in their first 3-5 years of teaching struggle in showing themselves to their students. Inevitably your teachers have instilled an image or idea of what a yoga teacher looks like, and you are likely trying to live up to that. Many teachers are trying so hard to fit in the box of what their teachers vision of a great teacher is. On the other side many teachers define the quality of their teaching by how many students show up to their class. This is of course inevitable at some point despite how much you try and pretend its not true. Better to just admit to it so you can take the steps to get beyond it. It doesn’t make you a bad person if you have the need to be liked, or loved, or validated by others attention, it makes you human. Now of course that is not an excuse to be a slave to your insecurities, but rather an acknowledgment that we all have the desire to belong, to love, and to be loved. The basic need for love gets distorted in so many ways when you are not loving and feeling loved, and if you let the feeling of lack dictate how you teach you will have a great deal of trouble attracting students because on a subtle level the class will be more about you than it will be about your students, and they will feel that. You have to do the inner work that connects you to the Source of Love within you, so that you are inspired to give love and help others connect to what you are connected to. Develop a meditation, contemplation, or intentional journaling practice that helps you connect to the ultimate source of love within you, and you'll begin to notice that everyone you come across will be attracted to your energy and want to be around you more often. When this comes about your work will then be to stay humble, and stay in tune with your deep intention to share the practice of yoga. Think about the teachers that are popular, there is something magnetic, and carefree about them. The secret is that they love themselves in a healthy way, and because of that they can let themselves be seen by others. Here are some questions to ask yourself each day to develop a sense of self love that will lead to authenticity.
•What is unique about you?
•What can others depend on you for?
•What is one of your strengths as a teacher?
•What aspect of your life do you want to cultivate more positivity in, and how can you get there?
•What is one quality of your personality that brightens other peoples day?
Be yourself and continuously evolve what it means to BE you. Offer that to your students.
3. Continuously ask yourself why you are teaching.
This could be the most essential question you ask yourself since it could lead you back to tips 1 and 2. It is so important to revisit the why behind teaching for you, or even the why behind anything you do. The why is what brings you inspiration and fuels your passion. When you are inspired and passionate you transmit what you have to offer rapidly and effectively. So take time to dig deep and uncover why you want to share the practice of yoga, and remind yourself each day. It will change over time and so be sure to ask yourself periodically especially if you are feeling uninspired for a period of time. Ask yourself what is the experience you'd like for your students to have before, during and after class.
•What can you do to help facilitate that experience?
•Are there parts of your teaching that could use more training in order to create that experience?
•Is there a teacher that you know of that holds a similar space for their students that you can learn from?
Settle into Your Path
Growing into your full potential is a never ending path, seeing as your potential will expand with you as you grow. Get comfortable walking this path of never ending evolution so you can feel confident where you are at this very moment, and at the same time excited to continue your study. When you settle into walking along the path of being a teacher, you will feel grounded in your being yet still open minded and ready to unfold the mystery of what else is available to you.
Upcoming Teacher Trainings with Matt Giordano "TheYogiMatt"
For the last 8 years of teaching I have been seeking out teachers and yoga styles to help me tune into my body on a deep level. I was not content with simply flowing through a bunch of poses, taking savasana, and going home. I wanted to get to know this physical body that I had been living in for my whole life and have yet to explore. This to me seemed to be the most tangible way to connect to the Source energy that is running through my body being at all times. The body is spirit and studying it lets the mind release into the beauty of life. Throughout my studies, I found that anatomy centered teacher were either overly cautious, didn't see the beauty of movement, or were stuck in their scientific mind making yoga feel like a powerpoint presentation. That being said there were also some amazing teachers that blew open my mind and heart with the way they taught the practice. When I found a teacher like that I latched on and tried to grab everything I could from them. Eventually after many years of finding amazing teachers and pulling out as much knowledge as possible my style of teaching began to evolve into a blend of Anatomy, Vinyasa, and Micro-Movement in order to help students find freedom in their body to move or practice in anyway that inspired them. Now I am excited to share the skills I have learned from some of the most powerful teachers I have come across, and help you evolve your teaching. I will share what I have developed over the years including effective practice/teaching techniques to advance your asana, ways to strengthen your verbal delivery, and exciting ways to learn and integrate anatomy to make you a more powerful and effective teacher. Join me October 2-7th at Omega Institute in Rhinebeck NY for 5 days of "Asana and Applied Anatomy". Tuition is $450 for the training, and if you are looking for a place to stay there are on-campus housing options available starting at an additional $450 for the full 5 day stay. Email me Matt@TheYogiMatt.com for questions and to see if this is right for you!